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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Copa de Jerez Sherry & Food Matching Competition

The International COPA JEREZ is a competition featuring chefs and sommeliers who have won preliminary competitions in their home countries by matching creative dishes to specific Sherrries. The finals in Jerez de la Frontera, capital of the Sherry district, will showcase winning chef and sommelier teams representing Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, USA, The Netherlands, Japan and United Kingdom.

Jerez de la Frontera

Sherry Bodega

During the finals--to be held in Jerez on January 11, 2007--each team will defend and justify their maridaje, or Sherry-and-creative dish marriages, in front of a panel of judges anchored by Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck, and including Juli Soler of El Bulli, and Doug Frost, MS, MW.

Juli Soler of El Bulli

The Chef/Sommelier team of one of NYC's finest restaurants has been selected to represent the USA at the International Competition of the COPA Jerez in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain next month. Andy Nusser, executive chef, and Nancy Selzer, GM/sommelier, both co-proprietors with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich of NY's celebrated Casa Mono, have chosen a brilliant array of Sherries to complement their original, creative cuisine.

An Andy Nusser scallop dish at Casa Mono

Copa Jerez was born some years ago with the aim of explaining the potential of Vinos de Jerez in the world’s gastronomy. After the success of the 1st Edition International Final in January 2005, Copa Jerez's prestige has grown rapidly and national competitions in 2006 drew a large number of enthusiastic chef-and-sommelier teams vying for a trip to the finals in Jerez.

American competitors at Copa Jerez 2005

All photographs copyright 2005 by Gerry Dawes.


Gerry's View - Spanish Food Reports Filed in Foods From Spain News

2006 - Madrid Fusion, Alimentaria & BCN Vanguardia, Salon Internacional de Gourmets, Spain's Ten, CIA-Worlds of Flavor, San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival

The world of Spanish gastronomy has never been more exciting. Culinary conferences spotlighting Spain, both in Spain and the U.S.; trade shows with a focus on Spanish foodstuffs and wines; and gastronomic promotional events throughout the year offer unique opportunities to sample, savor and learn about both exciting, cutting edge Spanish cuisine and the great cooking based on the rich food traditions of Spain.

In January, as reported in Foods From Spain News (Winter Issue), Madrid Fusión 2006 took center stage in Madrid and dazzled the world press with innovative presentations from Spanish star chefs and culinarians such as Ferran Adrià, Juan Mari Arzak, Martín Berasategui, Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, José Andrés and Harold McGee, the author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

On October 14, Madrid Fusión will make its debut in New York appearance with Spain's Ten, a day-long "mini Madrid Fusión"as a part of the events surrounding the inauguration of the new International Center for Food & Wine, an offshoot of the long-established French Culinary Institute. Invited to the event are ten top Spanish modern cuisine chefs including Adrià, Arzak, Berasategui, Joan Roca and Paco Torreblanca. Several of these same chefs will also cook at a gala dinner for the James Beard Foundation on Oct. 12 and for the press and invited American chefs on Oct. 13 in the kitchens of the International Center for Food & Wine.

In March, far less well-known that Madrid Fusión in international gastronomic circles, but quite spectacular for professional culinarians and aficionados was the superb BCNVanguardia ‘06 Congreso Internacional de Gastronomía de Alimentaria that was featured during the huge Alimentaria trade fair, a bi-annual event with thousands of exhibitors, which took place in Barcelona from March 6-10.

In May, late this year because of the Easter holidays, the Salón Internacional del Club de Gourmets (May 8-11 at the Casa del Campo) featured in three different exhibition halls some 1,000 exhibitors showing 35,000 products to more than 50,000 visitors. 2006 marks the 20th Anniversary of this stellar trade show. Grupo Gourmets, the organizers of this annual event is also celebrating 30 years as the publishers of Club de Gourmets magazine and an outstanding, indispensable guidebook series that includes the annual Gourmetour Guía Gastronómica y Turística de España, the Guía de Vinos Gourmets wine guide and GourmetQuesos, a guide to Spain’s superb cheeses. During the Salón Internacional de Gourmets each year, the Bocuse d’Or prize for the best young chef in Spain is awarded, as well as Gourmetour prizes for the best restaurant, best chef, etc. There are also competitions of national significance for the best Cortador de Jamón (Ibérico ham-cutting championship), sponsored /Dehesa de Extremadura, and the Cata-Concurso de los Mejores Quesos de España, a judging of Spain’s finest cheeses that has been narrowed to ten finalists in each of seven categories.

On May 15 and 16 in New York and May 17 and 18 in Chicago, at a series of tastings the government of Navarra’s trade mission to the United States presented a range of Navarra food products such as pimientos de piquillo, asparagus and a wide variety of quality conserved vegetables and fruits, olive oil, cheeses and wines–charming Chardonnays, superb rosados, world-class reds and luscious dessert wines. For more information about products from Navarra, contact: José Guerra ( from Foods From Spain or Miguel Moncada ( from the Cámara Navarra, the Chamber of Commerce of Navarra. Tasting & Touring in Navarra.

Also on the calendar are at least two other exciting Spanish-oriented gastronomic events, both of which will take place in November, 2006. The Culinary Institute of America's 9th annual Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival, will take place at their Greystone campus (a former monastery and winery) in Napa Valley from November 2-4, 2006. Widely acknow-ledged as the America's premier annual forum on world cuisines and culinary flavor trends for chefs, food journalists, and other food service, beverage and hospitality industry professionals, this year’s Worlds of Flavor event will be dedicated to Spain. Greg Drescher, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Culinary Institute of America told Foods From Spain News, "This year the CIA will stage the largest and most comprehensive conference ever held in the United States on Spanish food and wine, and the contribution of Spain to world menus past and future. Our 2006 program, Spain and the World Table: Regional Traditions, Invention and Exchange, will bring together more than 50 guest faculty, leading chefs, cooks, cookbook authors, and other culinary and beverage experts from throughout Spain as well as from across the United States and elsewhere around the world. Conference presenters will lead seminars, tastings, and demonstrations and collaborate on special meals and the spectacular food bazaars and cultural events at the World Marketplace held in Greystone's historic 15,000 square foot Barrel Room."

This year’s Worlds of Flavor event, which focuses on the traditional cuisines of Spain–as well as modern cuisine elements–promises to be the most spectacular Spanish gastronomic event of the year. José Andrés, author, Spanish television personality and chef-partner in several Jaleo restaurants in Washington, D.C. will chair the event. For more information see:

Less than a week later, from November 7 to 12, the 2006 San Antonio (Texas) New World Wine and Food Festival will also be dedicated to Spain in general and will highlight the gastronomy of the Canary Islands (many San Antonio area residents trace their roots to the Canary Islands). The festival will feature seminars and tasting on Spanish gastronomy, Spanish wines and cheeses and Canary Islands food, wine and culture. Spanish chefs from both the mainland and the Canary Islands will be invited to do demonstrations, cook at gala dinners, etc.


New Spanish Cookbooks

Fall, 2006

With the publication in the U. S. of four more major Spanish cookbooks in the past several months, the good news for Spanish gastronomy and food products just keeps coming. For years, the only serious Spanish cookbooks that one encountered in the major bookstores were those of pioneer author Penelope Casas, whose body of work grew to more than half a dozen high-quality interpretations of Spanish cuisine over a period of some twenty years, including last year’s La Cocina de Mama. During the same period Janet Mendel, who lives in the village of Mijas on the Costa del Sol, was also publishing several Spanish cookbooks, but their circulation was confined mostly to Europe until recently.

Then came Teresa Barrenechea’s The Basque Table, which joined Colman Andrew’s classic Catalan Cuisine, in highlighting Spanish cuisines regional distinctions. And with the publication in English and importation of new wave cuisine books in Spanish–such as those by super star chef Ferran Adrià on his world-famous restaurant El Bullí–the library of culinary writing on Spain (coupled with its international acceptance as the new culinary mecca), has grow exponentially to lay the foundation for this year’s explosion of new literature. Now, four excellent new books are on the market: Teresa Barrenechea’s The Cuisines of Spain>: Exploring Regional Home Cooking (Ten Speed Press), Janet Mendel’s Cooking From the Heart of Spain, José Andrés’s Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America, and Anya Von Bremzen’s The New Spanish Table, all of which call for Spanish products and list American purveyors where readers can find them.

Barrenechea’s The Cuisines of Spain has the endorsements of four of Spain’s three-star chefs: Ferran Adrià, Juan Mari Arzak, Martín Berasategui and Santi Santamaría. Adrià wrote “Barrenechea captures the essence of our country’s authentic regional cooking in a way never before accomplished.” And Arzak says she has “transmitted the true essence of our regional cuisines through this book.” Barrenechea, in Chapter Two, The Spanish Kitchen has valuable essays on such Spanish ingredients as extra virgen olive oil, sherry vinegar, Spanish cured jamones (both Serrano and Ibérico), piquillo peppers, pimentón de La Vera (paprika), esparragos de Navarra and azafrán (saffron).

Janet Mendel, in her Cooking From the Heart of Spain, emphasizes that “La Mancha’s culinary roots are rural, but beneath their sturdy simplicity, a rich Moorish and Sephardic heritage imbues Manchegan cooking with an aroma of refinement, of delicate complexity. Some of Spain’s most outstanding products come from this region,” Mendel says, “Manchego cheese, saffron, fine wines, serrano ham, and extra virgin olive oil. To give the foods a sense of place, I tell stories about an artisanal cheese maker, a revolutionary wine maker, harvesting saffron, trout fishing, a partridge shoot and making Marzipan in Toledo.”

José Andrés, star of his own wildly popular Spanish television cooking series, Vamos a Cocinar, and executive chef of Washington, D. C. ’s Jaleo, Café Atlantico and its renowned avant-garde tapas Minibar and several other restaurants in the nation’s capital, was recently named Chef of the Year by both Bon Appétit magazine and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (Rammy awards). His Tapas: A Taste of Spain, Andrés concentrates on modern small-plate tapas such dishes as lobster with clementines and grapefruit in saffron oil, slow-roasted beef tenderloin with Cabrales cheese and octopus with Spanish extra virgin olive oil and pimentón).

To promote her book on Powells bookseller’s website (, Anya Von Bremzen, in a wonderful essay about her experiences in writing The New Spanish Table, wrote “Experimental chefs swoon over the luminous quality of native (Spanish) ingredients and the rigorous simplicity of classic preparations — hanging out at old tabernas, tascas, and tapas bars along with the rest of Spanish gourmands. Meanwhile, owners of old-school restaurants send their children and business heirs to apprentice with new-wave maestros for progressive kitchen tricks. I don't know any other place on the globe where the union of old and new is so strong. In the end it's this marriage of tradition and innovation that makes eating in Spain such a thrilling adventure.”

Von Bremzen’s essay sums it up very well. These days, eating in Spain and the quality of Spanish ingredients is indeed is indeed “a thrilling adventure.”

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